Whether seeking refuge from slavery or simply opportunity, Black men made their way north to Alaska in the 1840s and 1850s by means of the whaling industry. Vessel records show these early whalers were some of the first Black people to travel to Alaska via the Pacific Ocean.
After the Civil War, the whaling industry experienced another influx of Black whalers. Some, like William T. Shorey, found fame for their maritime skills. Born on a sugar plantation in Barbados, Shorey took to the hard life of whaling to escape racism in the Caribbean, eventually becoming captain.